Sunday, January 19, 2014

5 Ways to Use Up Holiday Gift Card Balances

Gift cards are popular gifts no matter the time of the year. Just about every store you go into these days you can easily purchase gift cards for that particular store, local stores, chains, Visa, American Express, movie theaters and more! This Christmas my husband and I got a lot of gift cards as gifts. Friends and family generously gave gift cards to our favorite places to eat, stores and the movies!

I'm the queen of gift cards. I make sure I keep track of the balance and use it all! How about you? How do you make sure to spend that full gift card balance? I'd love for you to share your experiences below.

Purchasing Gift Cards

5 Tips to to Use Up Gift Card Balances


1. Know The Balance

This is easier than it sounds. Check your gift card balance to determine if your balance is $2.50 or $25. GiftcardGranny.com, which also allows you to buy and sell discount gift cards, offers a simple method of checking your balance for more than 300 merchants. You could also call the retailer's 1-800 number, but this method could mean a lot of time spent on hold. 
Some cards require you to register your card to check your balance, but this can be useful if that piece of plastic is lost or stolen.

Some cards require the store to put in an exact balance. Those type of cards are my least favorite. That is why I keep track of my balance to make it easy to use in the store.

If possible I always register store gift cards or Visa/Mastercards online. This allows me to use the card at online stores.

2. Keep Track of the Balance

Some gift cards have a little box on the back where you can note your remaining balance. If your card doesn't have one of these, write the total amount on a sticky note and wrap it around the card.

I personally use a sharpie marker and write the balance on every card. It can be wiped off of most cards and the new balance added!

3. Add to the Balance

Amazon, Walmart or most other grocery stores allow you to add any increment to a gift card, so if the balance is $2.95 and you want to make an online purchase, calculate the total cost at checkout then go back and buy a gift card for the remaining amount. With any luck, this policy will catch on with other merchants and services.

I easily add money to Starbucks, Kroger and Amazon cards all the time. How about you?

4. Know a Merchant's Policies

Some stores allow card holders to pay for purchases in multiple ways, so you can empty the card and fork over cash or use a credit card to complete the transaction. You'll also want to check whether a store takes less-frequently accepted gift cards, such as Discover and American Express.

I do this all the time.

5. Know Your Spending Habits

Will you likely spend $50 at a store and never visit again? Then purchase a card with a $50 balance and avoid a dangling balance. Merchants with whom you shop more frequently, such as grocery stores, may call for a $100 gift card, since you know you'll use up the balance. Keep in mind you can buy discount cards for less than the face value, which can save you anywhere from 15% to 50%.

I have been known to buy a gift card at a store if it gives me some type of bonus to purchase. I'm not sure about all the stores but I know at Kroger you can purchase gift cards, scan your Kroger store card and that purchase will count toward your fuel rewards. Restaurants do this around the holidays, too by offering a $5 bonus card for purchasing a certain amount, etc. 

Thanks to Consumer Savings Expert, Andrea Woroch for sharing this article with me. I added in my comments and suggestions as well as the italics comments.  Andrea has been featured as a media expert source on NBC's Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ABC News NOW and many more. Find out more about here AndreaWoroch.com.



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